British Land targets net-zero portfolio by 2030

Property development and investment giant British Land has unveiled a sweeping new sustainability strategy, headlined by a 2030 net-zero target for its office and retail estate.

British Land targets net-zero portfolio by 2030

British Land's portfolio is currently valued at around £14.8bn

The strategy commits British Land to halving the net embodied carbon of all existing properties, against a 2019 baseline, while also reducing the carbon intensity of properties by 75% within the same timeframe.

British Land’s strategy includes a clause to prioritise retrofitting over new build developments in the next ten years, in a bid to spur decarbonisation of the UK’s existing building stock – one of the nation’s largest carbon emitters and energy consumers. However, new developments delivered from April 2020 will need to be verified as net-zero embodied carbon.

The firm currently owns or manages a portfolio valued at £14.8bn, of which around two-thirds is accounted for by office buildings and the remaining one-third by retail and leisure buildings.

In order to raise funds for the net-zero transition, British Land has self-levied a carbon price of £60 per tonne on all developments. Funding raised through this mechanism will pay for retrofitting processes, carbon offsetting and engagement with customers and tenants, so as to provide them with best-practice advice for reducing operational emissions in context. £60 is notably far higher than Europe’s average carbon price, which, as of July 2019, stood at just under €27 (£24) per tonne.

The launch of the new strategy comes as British Land’s previous set of sustainability commitments reach their 2020 deadline. Since 2009, the firm has reduced the carbon intensity of its portfolio by 73% and the embodied carbon of its portfolio by 16%.

“We are keen to accelerate the progress we’ve made over the last decade by setting ourselves bold stretching targets for the decade ahead,” British Land’s chief financial officer Simon Carter said. “As a long-term investor in our places, we have the unique opportunity to make a meaningful impact on the environment and the communities where we operate.”

Building the future

 As well as accounting for nearly 40% of global emissions, the built environment is expected to double the global building stock by 2060 as the world’s population approaches 10 billion.

As such, the onus is on businesses and policymakers to decrease carbon intensity and improve energy efficiency for the sector – and rapidly. Around half of global GDP is now covered by net-zero targets deadlined at 2050 or sooner. Given the long life-cycle of buildings, this leaves precious little time for the transition to net-zero in the built environment sector.

The World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) last year issued guidance on achieving net-zero carbon on both an operational and an embodied basis. The organisation is urging members to reduce embodied carbon emissions by 40% by 2030 – a target which has been backed by dozens of big-name businesses – and to bring operational emissions to net-zero ahead of 2050.

In order to gage how this guidance, and other collaborative initiatives, are spurring decarbonisation across the build environment sector, edie recently spoke to a mainstay sustainability leader, a disruptive new firm and the organisation coordinating an entire sector. You can read that feature in full here.

Sarah George

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